Early Image From Catacombs of Baptism

Did Paul know about the Christian Baptism ritual.

Here is an excellent study of the word βαπτíζω by Gary Martin:

The word can refer to a Christian ceremony, but it can also just mean to dip, immerse, plunge, submerge, drown or dye. It can also be a ritual washing after death.

Here are the eight places that Paul uses a form of the Greek word “baptizo

  1. Romans 6.1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
  2. 1 Cornthians 10.1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
  3. 1 Corinthians 1.11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
  4. 1 Cornthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
  5. 1 Corinthians 15:29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
  6. Galatians 3.26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
  7. Ephesians 4.4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
  8. Colossians 2.11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

We should not assume that Paul was using the word to refer to a ritual.  The word “mouse” refers to the animal and the device that controls the cursor on a computer keyboard. The expression “Are you a man or a mouse” was coined when “mouse” referred only to an animal. Unless we can find some good reason to suggest that the word is being used to suggest the baptism ritual, we should assume that Paul is using it with its earlier non-Christian ritual sense. It seems that the term  “submerge” is best in cases #1 and  #3. In case #4, #6 ,#7, and #8 “immerse” or “immersion” fits best. Ritual Washing of the dead fits for #5. Only #2 seems to refer to an initiation ceremony. Here are the passages rewritten with the more logical and appropriate wording.

  1. Romans 6.1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were submerged into Christ Jesus were submerged into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through submerged into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
  2. 1 Corinthians 10.1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all submerged into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
  3. 1. Corinthians 1.11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
  4. 1 Cornthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all Immersed by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
  5. 1 Corinthian 15:29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are washed for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people washed for them?
  6. Galatians 3.26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were Immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
  7. Ephesians 4.4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one immersion, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
  8. Colossians 2.11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in immersion, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

The use of the term in a radically different way in 1 Corinthians 1.13-17 from 1 Corinthians 10 and 12 suggests that this is an insertion by a latter writer. The first Jewish writer in 1 Corinthians 10 and 12 is arguing that everybody is washed by the spirit of God, regardless of religion, sex or station in life. The second writer in 1 Corinthians 11 is trying to bind up differences between Christian groups, specifically those who follow Paul, those who follow Apollos, and those who follow Peter.

There is no reference to John the Baptist in Paul’s letters, suggesting that the original letter writer was unfamiliar with him and probably unfamiliar with the practice of Christian ritual baptism. Baptism as a Christian ritual appears to post-date the original writings of Paul.

Adam as the First Christ

Adam and Eve in the Catacombs in Rome, Italy

There is only one other reference to baptism in the epistles in the New Testament. That is from 1 Peter:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

The word baptism here is probably best rendered as “submersion.” The passage is talking about the salvation that came out of Noah’s Flood.The Flood is being treated as a baptism or “dipping in water”. Here the word “Baptism” is simply being used as a metonymy for “Noah’s Flood”.

Apparently, the author believed that the crucifixion of Christ had taken place some time before the Flood. The reference here makes most sense if we consider that the Christ being referred here is the resurrected Adam. Paul also makes the same connection between Christ and the Resurrected Adam:

45 So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

Before Christ was conceived of as Jesus, it seems that he was conceived of as a crucified and resurrected Adam. It is a little ironic that the incarnation of the second Christ, Jesus, has buried and hidden the resurrection of the first Christ, Adam. My best guess would be that until the middle of the Second century, references to Christ would have been references to a resurrected Adam only.